Review: Princes of Waco (Signal Ensemble Theatre)

| August 24, 2012 | 1 Comment

Rob Fenton (Jim) and Carolyn Braver (Esme) in Signal Ensemble Theatre's "Princes of Waco" by Robert Askins, directed by Bries Vannon. (photo credit: Johnny Knight)        
       
Princes of Waco 

Written by Robert Askins
Directed by Bries Vannon
Signal Ensemble Thtr, 1802 W. Berenice (map)
thru Sept 22  |  tickets: $15-$20   |  more info
       
Check for half-price tickets  
              
        Read entire review
     



     
       

Script scraps coherency for endless character deviations

     

Joe Stearns (Fritz), Meredith Bell Alvarez (Toasty), Rob Fenton (Jim)  and Carolyn Braver (Esme) in Signal Ensemble Theatre's "Princes of Waco" by Robert Askins, directed by Bries Vannon. (photo credit: Johnny Knight)

    
Signal Ensemble Theatre presents
    
Princes of Waco

Review by Katy Walsh 

I remember Author Flannery O’Connor from my high school English assignments.  She had a propensity to write about characters that had a dark side.  Unsettlingly but subtlety cruel.  I think it stays with me 30+ years later because before that I believed a good man wasn’t hard to find.

Signal Ensemble Theatre presents the Chicago premiere of Princes of Waco.  Jim is running away.  His minister father has died and he is done with the hypocrisy. He’s tired of a small town of church folk sinning 6 days a week and being pious on the seventh day.  He’s done.  On his way out, he meets Fritz.  It’s the typical-preacher’s-son-meets-town-drunk-in-a-bar.  Or is it?  Lives change from a chance encounter. But is it for the good or the bad? Princes of Waco engages in nasty behavior and then it gets despicable. 

Playwright Robert Askins flushed out an interesting but predictable story… to a point.  And then Askins rolls out twists and turns in the *last* quarter.  Director Bries Vannon Joe Stearns (Fritz) and  Rob Fenton (Jim) in Signal Ensemble Theatre's "Princes of Waco" by Robert Askins, directed by Bries Vannon. (photo credit: Johnny Knight)delivers powerful and compelling performances in the first ninety minutes.  But the shifting story in the final round becomes increasingly  irksome.  Askin’s script is so focused on surprising character deviation, it gets convoluted.   In the last several  scenes, I utter a silent prayer “end it here” as the never-ending saga continues without an end in sight.  The script is thirty minutes and two big reveals too long.  

Having said that, the acting is superb.  Joseph Stearns (Fritz) plays drunken mess with a balance of amicability, detestability and humility.  Stearns delivers a powerfully, complex performance.  I go back and forth wanting to hug him, hit him and hurt him-bad!  Rob Fenton (Jim) is outstanding.  Fenton transforms and hardens throughout the show.  But weirdly, Fenton physically ages during the intermission.  Wow!  Carolyn Braver (Esme) charms as a young high schooler with her own past demons.  And Meredith Bell Alvarez (Toasty) anchors the show as the no-nonsense bartender with just a hint of wistfulness.      

Princes of Waco investigates the true dark essences of humanity.  For me, it’s a little much.  But just like Flannery O’Conner’s tale about a Bible salesman, I’m not likely to forget this story.  

  
Rating: ★★½
  
   

Princes of Waco continues through September 22nd at Signal Ensemble Theatre, 1802 W. Berenice (map), with performances Thursdays-Saturdays at 8pm, Sundays 3pm.  Tickets are $15-$20, and are available by phone (773-698-7389) or online through Vendini.com (check for half-price tickets at Goldstar.com). More information at SignalEnsemble.com(Running time: 2 hours, includes an intermission)

Joe Stearns (Fritz),  Carolyn Braver (Esme) and Rob Fenton (Jim) in Signal Ensemble Theatre's "Princes of Waco" by Robert Askins, directed by Bries Vannon. (photo credit: Johnny Knight)

Photos by Johnny Knight 


     

artists

cast

Carolyn Braver (Esme), Joseph Stearns* (Fritz), Rob Fenton (Jim), Meredith Bell Alvarez* (Toasty)

behind the scenes

Bries Vannon* (director), Lindsay Bartlett (dialects), Michael C. Smith (lights), Mary O’Dowd^ (props), Melania Lancy* (set), Anthony Ingram* (sound), Stephanie Ingram* (stage manager), Vanessa Passini (fight choreographer). Johnny Knight (photos) 

*Indicates Signal ensemble member
^Indicates Signal artistic associate

12-0820

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Category: 2012 Reviews, Katy Walsh, Signal Ensemble Theatre

Comments (1)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

There are no comments yet. Why not be the first to speak your mind.

Leave a Reply